ROYAL OAK — The lead was 14 early in the second half.
With three minutes remaining in regulation, it was nine.
With 29 seconds to play, the game was tied.
And then Alexis Ramirez stepped to the free-throw line, silenced a raucous gym and earned Bishop Foley a spot in Friday’s Class C district final.
“I love this kind of win, because it shows we can play with anyone,” Foley coach Dave Joseph said after a 43-41 victory against Madison Heights Madison High in Wednesday night’s district semifinal at Royal Oak Shrine. “We adjusted when we had to, and as a coach, you have to love that. You love seeing you team have that ability.”
The free-throw makes were the only two points Ramirez scored in the game, but they were, obviously, huge.
Madison trailed by as many as 14 in the second half, and with roughly three minutes to play, was down 41-32.
Then the 3-pointers starting reigning.
A 9-0 run, capped by Parys Fuller’s 3-point make with 35 seconds remaining in regulation tied the game at 41-41.
Ramirez was fouled on the ensuing possession, but even after her two makes, gave the ball back to Madison with 29.9 seconds to play.
The Eagles didn’t get a shot off before turning the ball over with two seconds to play.
“We were going for the win. We set up and play and were going for the (3-pointer),” Eagles coach Stephen Benard said of the final half minute. “We set up a play, but they denied our shooter. Then we had another look at it, and turned it over.”
Asked about climbing out of the 14-point hole, Benard said it came down to his team’s ability to rally.
“I told them, with 10 minutes left, we had to step up,” Benard said. “We had to apply pressure and force some things defensively. Then we put up a lot of shots, and when they’re going in, we look great. When they don’t, we don’t.”
Joseph laughed about his team not closing out the game, saying, “I guess we have to make it exciting.”
“But we knew coming in we hadn’t seen a team like Madison all year,” he added. “With their speed and athletic ability, I told the girls we hadn’t played anyone like this. But I thought we did a real good job handling it.”
Renne Fischer led Foley, scoring a game-high 18 points. Juliana Aiuto added 15 points for the Ventures, who improve to 14-8 and will face Shrine or Southfield Bradford in Friday’s final, set for 6 p.m. at Shrine.
Foley has won six district titles in the past eight years.
Prencis Chism led Madison in scoring with 14 points, while Amber Thomas scored 11.
The Eagles finish the year 17-5, a program record for wins in a season.
“This was a great group of girls,” Benard said. “These seniors have so much to be proud of, and the younger girls really stepped up to make this a great season.”